Coming up…

Planning an event in Slovakia end of summer, details to follow.

Really looking forwards to this, I love meeting arborists in Eastern Europe and it’s been a while since the last time.

I think one of the aspects that I find exciting about visiting places with a relatively young arborist industry is how vibrant they feel and how often people there are enthusiastic and switched on. This is probably due to a sense of pioneering something together and then later, once an industry becomes established, that spirit also changes.


Tower dismantle

On Friday we dismantled the tower and loaded it onto a truck to ship it back to Wales. Perfect fit… great relief all around that this worked so smoothly. Pretty sure though that this first time was probably the one requiring most improvisation and flexibility as we are still unfamiliar with the whole running of the tower — I would expect this to get easier as we acquire greater routine.

Apart from that, what a fantastic piece of kit! Just moving around on it gives you ideas of things you’ve always wanted to find out more about, but never had the means… until now!

Introducing the Drop Tower, Climbers’ Forum day two

On day two we found ourselves skirting round torrential cloudbursts… luckily it cleared just in time for the first outdoor session, in which we introduced the tower.

The thought behind the Drop Tower is to give something back to the industry, to create a platform which offers possibilities to improve our understanding of the ways in which we work and to provide the means to do replicable testing. The concept is for the tower to go to a number of events in Europe, probably  three or four, and that at these, asides from the official program, people will be able to do their own testing. The way this would work is that if you have something you think would be worthwhile testing, you get in touch with us, we define a test set up and run the tests at the event. This would be free of charge, the only condition being that the results shall be published and made available to the public.

At the Climbers’ Forum this time we did some background tests, linking back to testing we had referred to in years past, but for obvious reasons were unable to show on site.

We looked at the effect that the angle at the anchor point has on anchor point loading in a single, stationary line configuration. The we compared the peak forces generated when dropping the 100kg test mass into a doubled running line vs. a single, stationary line set up. Next we compared energy absorption of systems by varying a stitched semi-static and a knotted dynamic lanyard between the test mass and the load cell and finally compared the performance  of a couple of mechanical devices.

It was great to have Andreas Detter from Brudi Partner supporting us during the talk, as some of this stuff is not entirely intuitive and he’s just an good person to run a presentation with. Some of the results we were still discussing the following day, trying to make sense of the one or the other figure. Over all a very interesting session, interesting results and the tower was great! So easy and fast to reset the mass, offering loads of attachment options…

What were the results? Well, you should have been there if you want to know 😉

We will be writing these topics up in due course and some of the test need to be re-run to clarify what the variables are… topics for years to come!

Thanks to Knut Foppe for the photographs.


Work Positioning Off Crane Hooks demo, Climbers’ Forum first day

This demo that Florim and I prepared together discussed how we attach into the hooks of mobile cranes, i.e. cranes with multi-sheave hook blocks with running cables – as opposed to a single, standing cable  – when positioning slings or chains on trees during dismantling operations. To do so we mocked up two hooks out of wood and rigged them onto the drop tower. The motivation for this talk was really reflecting myself… you know how it goes, crane turns up on site in the morning, everything is hectic anyway, you’re trying to organize the ground crew, the traffic management, placement of the grapple truck and chipper, a site briefing – and when it comes to installing onto the hook, you just attach in in any old way. Well, maybe not quite, but the criteria and the legal situation are were not quite clear to me.

Setting the slings, pic: Flo Nidecker
Setting the slings, pic by Flo Nidecker

That ambiguity remains: In Europe cranes conform to the machinery directive, so are not PPE. However, with suitable means, a lifting operation can mean lifting people, e.g. with a basket. The Gardeners’ health and safety organisation in Germany, the Gartenbau BG, for instance argue that a harness can also be viewed as a suitable means and by doing so managed to legalize attaching to the hook. In Switzerland you apply for a exceptional permit from SUVA, the Swiss health and safety body, to ride the hook, this will be granted on a case to case basis. In this way, the exact interpretation of the legality of tying into the hook varies from country to country.

Next, Florim and I went to speak to a number of crane companies, which was very interesting. For instance I was unclear about how hooks get specced to cranes. Does this depend upon model or size of the crane? What arguments are there for single vs. double hook, who makes the hooks, how much variability is there in the different models of hooks? Again, this is one of these topics that superficially seems really straight-forward, in truth thug, you can spend a while talking about it. The hooks are specced by the customer based on their needs, the manufacturer of the crane buys them from a hook manufacturers, of which there are three or four world wide and then certifies the crane and hook according to the machinery directive.

Next we started discussing attachment options: What scenarios could we envisage attaching to cranes in? We decided there were two generic situations. First, attachment to crane, placement of chains or slings from hook, transfer and anchor climber to tree, cut limb. The other option is in the case of the felling of a tree that is structurally compromised and a transfer of the climber to the tree is no option. In this case the use of two cranes may be a viable alternative, with one crane being used to lift the load and the second to secure the climber.

We discussed various attachment options, directly into the hook, on the neck of the hook above the gate, to the hook block, backed up options, attached to the neck of the hook as well as to the hook block. There are any number of permutations conceivable, however, I strongly feel it to be advisable to keep you PPE and the load separate, i.e. have the attachment outside of the hook, on the neck of the hook and to establish a back up to the block. If the climber is remaining on the crane, as in option two described above, a permanent back up may be worth considering, running a back up device on a secondary line.

Primarily the aim of the workshop was to clarify that there is plenty to discuss in this matter, to ask questions and to establish some generic red threads that people may want to consider when configuring their systems onto the hook.

Thanks to Knut Foppe for the event photographs.

The tower, she rises!

What a ride! Finally, after years, the treemagineers drop tower is a reality!

After a really gutsy set up day on Friday, with Chris and Puk braving the elements, obstructive crane drivers and knuckle-draggingg foundation drilling blokes, the tower is now a reality!

Final tweaking tomorrow, do some run-throughs and test drops and we should be good to go. I will be very interested to see how it all goes, what the response is, what topics this allows us to delve into in greater depth.

Why go to all this effort?

The investment in this tower as a testbed for replicable testing and to advance industry understanding for the hows and whys of our work methods represents a major investment for us, no question. However in our eyes it is the right thing to do: we see it as a re-investment in the industry and are therefore happy to be able to offer something in return for the faith that people place in the products we have been involved in over the years and by doing so in validating the concepts behind them.

Can’t wait to give it a spin over the next couple of days…

Final day in Japan

Finished the final workshop day in Kyoto. My comic highlight of the day was the biker fest going on close by which involved a band playing cover versions of popular songs. On the ground this was not so noticeable, but when I arrived at the top of the access line and cleared the hill between the workshop site and the bikers I was treated to a pretty bumpy, off-tune, but non the less very enthusiastic and raucous rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana in best Japanglish. Not the best for continued communication with the ground, but not without its humor.

A big thank you to all the folk at KEM for making this possible and to the whole family Niikura for the invitation and for their gracious and incredibly generous hospitality. What a fantastic group of people to work with, a true pleasure and privilege! Also a big thank you to Takashi-san, as I already mentioned in yesterday’s post. Another day of – as far as I could tell – flawless translation. Look forwards to working together again in the future.

And finally I would like to thank all the attendees of the workshop. I hesitate to generalize, as I always feel that it’s a bit stereotypical, but all the same, I can’t help but observe that the Japanese audience is a very easy one to work with, people are very attentive, forgiving of occasional fits of fuzziness on my part (yes, definitively happens!), polite and switched on. I am excited to see how this industry seems to be rapidly evolving in this country and am glad that I have been given the opportunity to make a small contribution towards this.

I will be leaving Japan tomorrow filled with many impressions, and once again intrigued by how superficially some aspects of this society seem quite westernized, yet at the same you get the sense of a proud and very different culture, with a strong sense of identity and a long history. What fascinates me is how it is possible for cutting edge technology and age-old traditions to co-exist side by side, both very much alive and seemingly not in contradiction , but rather complementing each other.

P.S. Good news! Just realized I’m flying with JAL, codeshare with BA… so I won’t have to watch the same films again. Small joys 🙂

Event in Belgium

I will be traveling to Menen in Belgium on the 26.04.2014 for the opening of Condor Safety‘s new training centre.

There is a big event planned with the manufacturers they work with present and a program of presentations. I look forwards to being able to support Patsy and Wouter Verplancke and their team, as they do a cracking job and over the years have been extremely supportive of the Belgian arborist scene.



Workshop Kyoto

Well, I say Kyoto, but it’s actually a fair drive out of Kyoto itself out into the boonies. Beautiful location up in the hills surrounded by Cryptomeria, cherry blossom and forest. Had about eighty people attending, really friendly crowd, again, switched on and interested. There was obviously a fairly wide range in levels of competence, which can make delivering content a little tricky, especially if you are battling not just language, but als cultural barriers. But my feeling tends to be in such cases to allow people sufficient space to interact and discuss between blocks of content. That way you ensure that attendees have the opportunity to ask questions on a one on one basis and also just to discuss what was shown.

Once again, being able to rely on Takashi Osaka’s translating skills was invaluable. I am amazed at how he can spend a whole day translating from English to Japanese – not just English, but me liberally adding in witticisms to boot. But Tashi remains unflappable – even under pressure! Also thanks to Paul Poynter for giving a hand and bailing me out… one more workshop day tomorrow, then I will find out whether British Airways show the same films in both directions on their long-haul flights. I’m afraid I know the answer already.



Workshop in Saitama

First workshop day on this trip to Japan in the beautiful Forest Park in Saitama. Organisation by the KEM Japan team war spot on, crowd was switched on and friendly and apart from a couple of drops of rain mid afternoon the weather played the part, too.

Thanks to Paul and Tash from Kei’s Shop for their support and also Angela from Teufelberger for her presentation of the products. Onwards to Kyoto tomorrow. Taking the Shinkanzen, hopefully Fujiyama will decide to stick its head up out of the haze for us…